Three peoples’ lives become coiled around the unfortunate state of death with each experiencing individual variations of the concept. The recently released convicted felon, Ed Kunkle, faces reality on the brink of insanity as his past demons vilify his temperament in the direction of total carnage. Befriended by Kunkle is Eve Adams, a single mother who struggles to cope with her infant son’s untimely murder that happened right under her watch. Assigned to the Adams Boy’s case is detective Bodie Jameson who struggles with own malevolent urges brought upon by the unsurmountable cases of grisly homicides that come cross his desk while he also tracks down a child killer. Their differences connect them, looking into their future to rediscover the past that molded their disheveled lives into fateful affairs with death.
Over the course of three years between 2007 to 2010, auteur filmmaker Joaquin Montalvan directed and assembled a gritty glimpse into the grubby windows of condemned souls with the 2010 released “Hole,” produced by his own independent production company, Sledgehammer Films, and co-written with his longtime collaborator and wife in life, Eunice Font. “Hole” is Montalvan’s third horror feature following 2002’s beleaguered with loneliness thriller “Adagio” and psychological horror, “Mobius,” which was released the year prior in 2009, plus also behind a string of documentaries. Montalvan’s an optically surreal storyteller basking in a rich and unorthodox story and color palette that revives originality bobbing in an heaving ocean of lemming horror.
“Hole” is comprised of showcasing three stories from three tormented lives. One of those lives, the mentally unfit Ed Kunkel, gorges on being the centric force that thrives the other two into a descendant hell. The late Paul E. Respass tunes into Kunkel’s manic polarity as a person who can be extremely mild mannered and pleasant then explode with caustic abrasiveness and ugly torture. Respass’s shoulder length, wavy hair, graying goatee, and iron contoured face gives him a Charles Manson appearance that goes good with crazy. Behind closed doors Repass’s Kunkle breaks with sanity slaughtering his mother lookalikes as a result of mommy issues, but when conversing with Eve Adams, Kunkle’s maintains an upright keeled temper. Teem Lucas, who like Respass has worked with Montalvan previous, subdues the abnormal imbalance with a normal person’s reactionary response to loss and heartache when Eve Adams copes with the murder of her young child. In the middle these two extremities, detective Bodie Jameson’s work seeps into his psyche, fluctuating between irrational and rational thoughts. Another actor in Montalvan’s corral, Jim Barile, who looks more like a 70’s hippie than a detective, has the hardest performance of them all of slipping into a terrifying unknown mindset while maintaining status quo in work and romantic relationships. Barile’s role isn’t well recieved, flying mainly under the radar with an underperformed and pointless conclusion to detective Jameson right and wrong affliction. Charlotte Bjornbak (“Camera Obscura”), Katherine Norland (“Cannibal Corpse Killers”), Alina Bolshakova (“Dead End Falls”), Dennis Haggard (“Cannibal Corpse Killers), Theresa Holly (“Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher”), Micki Quance, Gavin Graham, and Char Frost (“Someone’s Knocking at the Door”) co-star.
Right away, a strong sense of resemblance washed over me when viewing “Hole.” The lead actor, Paul Respass, and the overall texture felt already acquainted with my visual cortex nerves. My suspicions were justified and my sanity was cleared as I have seen “Hole” before in a later film entitled “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” another Joaquin Montalvan flick featuring Respass as a delusional manic. Yet, “Hole” is one of those films that after the credits role, hasty judgements should be chewed on, reflected upon, and recollected for a second analysis. Hell, you might as well just re-watch it all over. The thing with Montalvan is is that his brand has trademark cognizance on such a level that even if “Hole,” released in 2010, and “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher,” released in 2014, instinctually ride the same wave, they ultimately compare as individual projects with a distinct personality and artistic flair. For instance, “Legend of the Hillbilly Butcher” denotes more of an homage to early exploitation films and “Hole” puts more stake into societal system failures, even if borrowing from the likes of Ed Gein with the killer wearing a flesh mask and sewing up a fleshy garment. Both films hark about mental illness, but one glorifies the act for the sheer sake of carnage fun and the other considers it a collateral damaging symptom of a broken justice structure. Another difference to note is “Hole’s” three-way non-linear narrative that moves like the Wonkavator from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” in every way imaginable and can be daunting to keep up.
Out of the depths of obscurity comes “Hole” distributed on DVD home video by MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing under the Raw and Extreme banner. Presented in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Montalvan and his D.P. R.T. Norland, brightly bedazzling with every shade of matte box and some slow motion, play the field utilizing various techniques to tap into Ed Kunkle’s disorienting madness. Using backdrops like the ghost town of Bodie and the spiritual sanctuary (or bohemian commune) of Salvation Mountain, Montalvan’s able to cast an aberrant vision out inside an independent means. There are some points of posterization, details are softer than desired, and blacks lose composition with blocky noise so there are some drawbacks to the encoding. The English language dual channel audio mix pairs about the same as the video with spliced competing facets that tend to offer come-and-go range and depth. Scream queen moments go into feedback mode during Ed Kunkle’s kill mode, losing the ideal quality via unsound mic placement. Dialoge is okay being on the softer side with some background noise being flowing in and out between the audio edits, emitting a static effect around the dialogue and then cut out when not the actors are not speaking. The bonus features are aplenty and informative with a Montalvan commentary track, an extensive mack of documentary that fine combs every pore of the film that includes interviews with cast and crew, Ed’s Journal segment conversing about the backstory on Ed Kunkle’s perverse family and killed friends portraits and souvenirs, as well as trailers. Bloodhounds will want more from Ed Kunkle’s shed of horrors, but what director Joaquin Montalvan has fashioned threads madness with a neglected mental heath system while polishing a a shiny three prong, moviegoer narrative with blood, body parts, and butchery.
Three sordid, macabre tales straight from the controversial pages of Glenn Danzig’s Verotik comic line that slips into the surreal lurid dimension of obscure stories of a subconscious half-human, half-spider manifestation with a sexual appetite and a morbid desire to break the necks of women of the night, of a disfigured and mysteriously alluring stripper who seeks out beautiful women nightly to crudely remove their faces with a knife and overlay their once perfect skin on top of her face as she adds them to her collection of facial distinctions, and, lastly, of a bloodthirsty medieval countess known to her subjects for exquisite beauty and grace emanated by the blood baths of her virginal female subjects.
Legendary metal musician and songwriter Glenn Danzig has been a symbolic (Anti-)God that inspired other metal bands and fans over for more than 40 years, birthing perhaps the original, and still more popular, horror-goth punk bands to ever set the black lit stage, the Misfits in the late 1970’s. Outside his illustrious musical career, Danzig owns Verotik, a comic book publisher, that’s a portmanteau derived from “violent” and “erotic,” geared toward adult-themed material and inspired by his fascination with horror. In comes “Verotika,” a three short film anthological horror feature penned by Danzig and is his director debut while in collaboration with powerhouse musical recording label, Cleopatra Records, under their cinema label, Cleopatra Entertainment. Co-producing alongside Danzig is James Cullen Bressack, whose heavily been the created force behind the affectional indie found footage horror “2 Jennifer” and “From Jennifer” films, and Bressack associating collaborator, Jarrett Furst.
Keeping with the “Verotika’s” motif of scantily cladded women and the elements of horror, each story is driven by a female lead portrayed by actress who’ve established themselves with a scream queen presence, have enter the entertainment industry by way of X-rated programming, or are fresh faced with the presumptive hypothesis that the role secured was for their voluptuous assets. Ashley Wisdom is one of those endowed actresses that fit the latter category. The Instagram model and fling of Glenn Danzig becomes a shoe in for the lead of Dajette in the first segment, “The Albino Spider of Dajette.” Wisdom’s cringing faux French accent and rigid manner doesn’t wholly dilute from her bustier attributes that include prosthetic eyeballs for nipples – all part of Dajette’s character – and fairs better than Scotch Hopkins’s (“2 Jennifer”) absurd Albino Spider of grim free verse prospects inside a stiff, stingy mockery of a humoresque spider. Optimistically, the episodes only go up from her with the following tale ”Change of Face” that follows mystery girl, “12/12/12’s” Rachel Alig, hunting down and slashing off the faces of beautiful women for her collection. Alig is a palpable psychopath amongst a sea of overzealous, conventional orchestrated character types that sells a noir, or hints at a giallo, loom that sensualizes as well as sexualizes a salacious one-person schismatic view of beauty. However, the grand finale saves the best for last with Verotik’s more diabolical and foundational brutal transgressors, Drukija: The Countessa of Blood. Without so much of a setup or without expositional bookends that dive into backstory, conflict blossoming, or even resolution, Drukija’s a voyeuristic chronicle that exhibits the day in a life of a abhorrent ruler soaked in virgin blood with Australian actress Alice Tate fulfilling Drukija’s iron spike studded crown. Numerous scenes linger with Tate just bathing in blood or checking her sangre-moisturized skin in a three-way mirror to just extenuate the picking and choosing of daughtered victims, gleaming of deity-hood inside the eye’s of her maniacal maiden hand, and, in her spare time, amasses decapitated heads of the slaughtered young women as keepsakes. Yet, Kayden Kross dignifies that porn stars can get into the silver screen market, well, at least in Danzig’s irregular one. The director and starlet filmmaker hosts an outer edge story as the witchy-gowned and demonically unholy Morella who introduces each segment in between. Sean Kenan (“My Trip Back to the Dark Side”), Natalia Borowsky, Emma Gradin, with special cameo appearances by Caroline Williams (“Texas Chainsaw Massacre II”), Courtney Stodden, and a number of women from the porn circuit like Kross, such as Bobbi Dylan, Katrina Jade, Emma Hix, Aalyiha Hadid, and Veronica Ricci.
I’m all for the forging of industry realms when comic meet the big screen with adaptation and love Verotik’s edgy eroticism and hyper-violence mantra, but “Verotika’s” pulpy irregular narrative meter coursed a perplexing devolved sojourn through our visual cortex, leading us pleading for a bigger, better version of Danzig’s auteur dreamscapes. Verotik’s a fire and brimstone optical narrative from the illustrated pages that speak volumes of profligate and vivid avant-garde characters and unlimited violence that tremendously lose that tailor-made authenticity when translated to the screen. Danzig’s free-form script works with music symbiotically; for together, the strums and riffs glue together disassociating dialogue to a unison of harmonics, even if Danzig’s prefers harsher rock melodies. For the musician’s first dance with directing, Danzig deserves props creating a gory, pulpy, and colorful piece of his subsequent profession. Yet, there’s always room for improvement in his technique, such as Danzig’s fascination with the zoom feature on the camera. The edit cut is almost too rough for swallow with no segue equilibrium between shots that result in some obvious cue acting and I’m usually a fan of Vincent Guaustini’s work, but his Albino Spider suit, in which the other four arms out of the three sets were fastened together, rolled back years of good effects work.
True to form, Cleopatra Entertainment offers a staggering release for Glenn Danzig’s “Verotika” in a triple-format Blu-ray/DVD/CD release distributed by MVDVisual. For this review, the Blu-ray was covered and the transfer is released in a widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, shot on an Arri Alexa anamorphic lens camera. The enormity of color schemes offers a wide variety of tints, especially in “The Albino Spider of Dajette,” but revert to more a natural tone for “Change of Face” and “Drukija: Countess of Blood” with stable details inside and outside the black. Slightly hazy (or maybe just smokey?) at times, but the 1080 does too good of a job to see all the nonexistent pores on the ripped off faces in “Change of Face.” The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio mix that, again, has a lossy quality from Cleopatra Entertainment, a sub-label of a major music recording company. The surround faintly register ambient audiophiles inside the channels whereas Danzig’s rock solid and eclectic soundtrack offers more, just a notch more, LFE oomph quality to boost into all areas. The CD renders around the same lossy quality. Bonus features include a trailer, a slideshow, and, of course, the compact disc featuring a new track from Danzig and also features tracks by Ministry, Pink Velvet, Studio 69, and Switchblade Symphony. Like a bizarro “Red Shoes Diaries'” episode, “Verotika” bares no shortage of nudity that’s interlocked with well-nigh arbitrary violence spread-eagled in a gnarled cinema anthology of surreality that lied festering inside Glenn Danzig’s head.
The unspeakable 23 rape and murder crimes of psychopath Ivan Moser grant him a seat of honor at the electric chair. As soon as the switch is thrown, a massive prison riot ensues and what happens next becomes unexplainable, confusing, and indeterminable. One thing is clear, the prison’s Warden Kash loses his position as the trashed penitentiary is forced to shut down. Eighteen months later, a film crew acquire permits to shoot a women-in-prison exploitation film inside the prison with the help of it’s one time custodial employee, Russell, who is just as creepy as the abandoned maximum security penitentiary that housed the infamous Ivan Moser. As production grapples with townsfolk opposition, electrician’s timing miscues, and some seriously bad acting, there’s one unexpected obstacles not accounted for…a living, breathing Ivan Moser still living inside the iron cladded prison.
Horror fans from all walks of life to the age gaps of multiple generations can all agree on one thing, that the 1980’s is the gilded age of horror to which inspired and/or captivated us all. The decade was also an industrious change for political climates that saw the fall of the Berlin and saw musical artists like Michael Jackson break the conventional molds of how music was orchestrated, sung, and danced too. For movies, the change came with technical innovation in elaborate special effects, such as in John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and undogmatic view of how we perceive plots which opened the flood gates to a slew of unexplored ideas no matter how far-fetched they may seems. One plot such as this would be from the 1988 prison massacre film, “Destroyer,” directed by Robert Kirk as is one and only non-fictional feature before an extreme career solidifying shift to historical movie and television documentaries. Written by Peter Garrity (“The Forgotten One”), Rex Hauck, and Mark W. Rosenbaum, “Destroyer’s” a gritty tale of endless, black obsession fueled by insanity, revved up with inexplicable half-alive malice, and juiced with strength of an indestructible force without being overtly supernatural.
With an 80’s movie comes an 80’s cast and the popular reteaming of Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman from 1986’s holiday themed horror, “April Fool’s Day.” “Destroyer” isn’t based on a certain holiday, but converges more toward meta approach where Clayton Rohner and Deborah Foreman play the romantic couple, grindhouse screenwriter David Harris and stuntwoman Susan Malone, on film set of their women in prison movie – Death House Dollies. A typecast switcheroo is engaged as the physicality falls upon the female role while Rohner takes a reserved backseat as a writer and that entails Foreman to face off against Lyle Alzado as the unspoken titular character Ivan “Destroyer” Moser. Alazdo’s crazy eyes and muscular football build provides the suitable basic elements of a crazed killer; probably doesn’t hurt that Alzado was also juiced up on steroids throughout his career in the NFL and beyond his exit from sports entertainment. Alzado has been quoted in Sports Illustrated having uncontrollable anger from roid-rage and that pressurized anger seethed, one could assumed, in the eyes of Ivan Moser, forging a superhuman monster under the parental guardianship of Richard Brake lookalike, Tobias Anderson (“Harvest of Fear”). “Psycho’s” late Anthony Perkins co-stars a the director of the WIP film as an unusual placemat only to serve as a hot moniker in horror to be contextual candy for one big scene and not providing much else. Lannie Garrett, Jim Turner (“Pogrammed to Kill”), Pat Mahoney (“Strangeland”), and four Death House Dollies in a gratuitous shower fight scene co-star!
A purebred American slasher of eccentric electrifying devices, “Destroyer” chooses punitive measures against the concept of capital punishment, sending the cryptic message that the dead will haunt you and those that you touch forever in some warped guilt trip nexus. The message is only further hammered in by the embossed haunting atmosphere of Robert Kirk’s opening sequence of a priest walking down the hazy cellblocks toward Moser’s cell, sitting with twitchy Moser while he madly raves and rambles about the game show that plays on a television set in front of his cell, and going through the steps of a chaired electrocution echoes a utilitarian dystopia that fathers in the cold, ungenial tone of the prison and Moser’s psychotically feral thirst to kill. Ivan Moser’s vitality is infectious, a hail-mary shot you’ll be rooting toward the finale, as the serial killer undertakes undertaker duties with extreme perversity while chocking up his body count with unsystematic eliminations, such as with a conveniently placed jackhammer in the prison basement. The jackhammer’s scene is “Destroyer’s” bread and butter, the showpiece of the whole film, but Moser only snag a couple of some real good on screen kills. All the rest are off screen or channeled through another device, such as an electric chair, and that softens and stiffens Moser’s, if not also Alzado’s, ultimate larger-than-life presence. Still, “Destroyer” rocks Lyle Alzado’s short-lived indelible monster making movie talent and confines the space to a breathless solitary confinement death house ready to devour more victims.
“Destroyer” shocks onto DVD home video release distributed from Cheezy Movies, MVDVisual, and Trionic Entertainment, LLC. If you’re not willing to shell out big bucks for “Destroyer” on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, check out Cheezy Movies’ economy region free DVD presented in an academy ratio, full frame 4:3. A beginning title card mentions that Cheezy Movies attempts to find the best transfer available when searching out titles and I believe that was done here with this release, but unlike Scream Factory, funds were not poured into an expensive upscale as moments of banding start right at the title credits. The transfer instances of dirt and cigarette burns are immaterial enough to not falter viewing, but there’s a bit of hefty color posterization in the basement scene that nearly blends the entire white scheme together and causing difficulties defining individual objects. The English language single channel mono mix maintains a lossy connatural sell topping out at the it’s as good as it gets ceiling with an economy release, but the dialogue is surprising clear, soundtrack sounds good, and the ambience, though needing a fine tuning, shapes out depth and range nice enough. With this release, no special features are available. Much like “Destroyer’s” tagline, Robert Kirk’s feature won’t shock you, but will give a great buzz with a nightmare coiling around your brain performance from Lyle Alzado and a super 80’s execution-from-the-grave slasher that’s just a guilty pleasure to behold.
Living hesitant, unconfidently, and unfulfilled in Hollywood, California, Matthew finds himself fired by his employer after experiencing a promotion interview from hell, but that’s not the worst of his problems. Earlier the same day, Matthew learns his estranged older brother, a free-spirited and enthusiastic Jason, has been kicked out of his parents’ home, provided a plane ticket, and sent to live with him possibly forever. The estranged brothers finally reunite after years apart and Jason infiltrates back into Matthew’s uptight life their childhood obsession with sharks to try and finish a rough, shark-thriller script from their past, entitled “Sharks Outta Water.” When a magical movie muse decides to grant them their boyhood cinematic aspiration, the sudden appearance of a poorly render man-eating shark floats about their neighborhood streets, hunting down the brothers during a night of computer imagery terror limned with shoddy shark frenzies.
Out in the surf of the internet, a list lurks just beneath the dark waters of the web. A list containing a flooded genre of some of the worst shark movies detrimental to mankind’s inherent fear of a primordial aquatic creature that was once known to be the ocean’s apex predator. To save us from the cold, bleak shark banality, “Bad CGI Sharks” absorbs all toxic mundane trash skimming the vast global networks and big picture boxes to recourse from the singular trained thought that sharks are much more than a punching bag of relapsed rendered dogfish with jaws. Written, produced, and directed by MaJaMa, an alias for Matthew Ellsworth (Ma), Jason Ellsworth (Ja), and Matteo Molinari (Ma), “Bad CGI Sharks” flaunts a straight-to-video, no-budget comedy-horror in the face of whoever is willing to once again put themselves in front of a speeding bad shark movie train; yet, the filmmaking trio embark on a creative, meta journey risky with little blood shed and a swarm of animated things that mark somewhat of a resemblance to sharks. What crests is insightful satirical wit over the ostentatious flare of gratuitous explosion, nudity, and monstrous sharks.
In keeping to the budget, MaJaMa already wear many hats behind the camera. To extend even further their invested working capital, the filmmakers also star in the lead roles, virtually as themselves, to surely hammer down a film entitled “Bad CGI Sharks” in their own brand of humor. We begin with Matteo Molinari, the Genova, Italy born actor who had a small role in 1994’s “Silence of the Hams,” a spoof starring Dom DeLuise and Billy Zane derived from the Jonathan Demme’s Hannibal Lector thriller, “Silence of the Lambs,” if the title itself wasn’t self-evident enough. Molinari is the only main lead not using his namesake and, instead, becomes the magical movie wizard Bernardo with his muse movie clapper. Bernardo was built for Molinari as the two are synonymous to each other’s manners, speech, and quirky simpatico charm, resulting in an innocent, mischievous movie imp to be the bridge connecting the gulf between Jason and Matthew’s polarizing characters. Jason’s a severe caricature of hyperactivity and of someone whose stuck in the past and while Jason Ellsworth has his moments, without his brother Matthew’s stern, grown-up, and spruced up onscreen self, the dynamic just wouldn’t be as potent as Matthew is essentially the activator spray to Jason’s gluey personality. The cast concludes with Jenn Liu (“Stranger in the House”), Josh Sterling, and Shaun Landry.
Tiptoeing around the fringes of being a stoner film, “Bad CGI Sharks” pushes a hyper-meta reframe of how shark movies, or perhaps the film descends deeper into the water molecule level of just the shark representation itself, should be brought back to the shores of reality from the watery depths of Davy Jones’ poorly rendered locker. Coinciding with crystallizing the shark-sploitation category is a more tender note of embrace with relatable themes of rediscovering brotherhood and mending broken bonds. Matthew’s parental manufactured disgust with his older, yet childlike, brother casts a large, dark cloud that seizes up any kind of affection and the floating shark, the symbolic dream of their childhood, tests their relationship, motivating the the character arches in the face of “Bad CGI Sharks.” Amongst the witty banter and flying carnivorous fish, “Bad CGI Sharks” shows innate signs of no-budget difficulty such as story pacing where the middle sags with Jason and Matthew running around Hollywood for awhile in a progression stagnation and there lies some early editing miscues with audio mixing and mic work. Like a shark, “Bad CGI Sharks” needs to keep swimming or else it’ll upend and die; luckily, MaJaMa saves the cinematic beast with the shark devours the internet and all bets are off!
If you like your sharks floating and roaring, then “Bad CGI Sharks” DVD home video is for you, sailor, courtesy of SRS Cinema and MVDVisual. The not rated, region free DVD is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, with, an IMDB listed, Sony a75 II Mirrorless camera complete with a “vintage” lens. Most of the image transpires cleanly and sharp, even the inorganic, floating sharks look fair in their farce facade, and with the specialized lens seemingly cornered to just around the Bernardo’s outer shell host duties and intermission skit and also in the initial attack sequence in which is the only scene with any kind blood shed. The English language audio tracks include a 5.1 surround sound mix and a stereo mix. The audiophiles will find solace in knowing “Bad CGI Sharks” doesn’t mean bad audio tracks. Dialogue has clarity throughout, depth and range remains steady, and there’s negligible hum electric feedback. Bonus features include a commentary track with MaJaMa, a retrograde toy commercial for all the characters, the teaser trailer, trailer, and SRS promoted trailers. Though lacking bloody chum, “Bad CGI Sharks” has bite albeit with more comedy than creature feature horror, fleshing out real world problems with hilarity in a cheapjack rendition of a killer shark.
Obsessed in locating a relic that has cursed his family for generations, archeologist John Brock desperately searches the cave his difficult father’s dispatches him to to locate and destroy the artifact that has plagued his lineage. His last expedition kills a man and John begins to question his father’s ranting and whether a curse actually exists, but when a mysterious accident sends him to the hospital, horrifyingly devilish visions nearly kills him in the unconscious state. As he snaps back to reality, John is hellbent on ridding the relic’s clinging evil and his family joins him for one last expedition to the cave that’s also a portal to hell and the Devil is waiting for him.
The above synopsis sounds terribly convoluted for such a rectilinear plot of the William Shatner story of demonic spelunking entitled, “Devil’s Revenge,” from 2019. The “Devil’s Domain” and “Halloween Pussy Trap Kill! Kill!” director, Jared Cohn, tackles the position’s obstacle of frustrations working with a rumored overly difficult Shatner as well as flushing out a cohesive story suited strappingly as can be on establishing a hell bound narrative with little backstory mythology from a script by Maurice Hurley, a writer on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” What’s unusual is Hurley isn’t credited at the end or on the backcover of the Blu-ray and it’s a project he supposedly collaborated with Shatner up until his death in 2014 at the age of 75. Luckily, Cohn’s on the record saying Shatner was professional and precise, a true credit to his skill. “Star Trek” does become a constant motif not inside the frames, but more behind the camera with the cast, including Shatner, and Hurley who is the creative parent of one of outer space’s biggest nemesis, The Borg. “Devil’s Revenge” is a far cry from the final frontier, seizing on the border fringes of the underworld that seeps above ground.
Trekkie fans will appreciate the Captain Kirk star’s uncharacteristic doomsday pessimism and grand finale grenade launching that turns demons into canon fodder. Shatner is a savage as John’s fanatical father, bombarding his grown, near middle-aged, son with constant disappointment and disparagement that becomes one source of John’s (“Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey’s” Jason Brooks) dire motivations to risk his family inside the gaping mouth of the netherworld, a questionable and ill-advised move especially when death is evident. Brooks is a career television and TV movie actor who can settle right into a third rate production with ease without batting a condemnatory eye lash. While Shatner and Brooks’ one-sided family role quibbles over languishing curses and John’s inability to man-up for the situation goes into the hilariously bad category, the second “Star Trek” star, Jeri Ryan from the “Voyager” series, lands a subdued role as John’s foot mat wife who just goes with the punches without making too much of a wake serving as John’s better half and reasonable conscious. Ryan and Brooks’ on-screen relationship is a supposed marital one, but the chemistry just isn’t present and wanders into questionability with their relationship status. The script’s backstory on John and wife is obliquely exposed through exposition without any of the visual depth and discharge of fleshing out a better dynamic for Ryan and Brooks to work with in building their characters. The remainder of the cast list includes Ciara Hanna (also from “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lamprey”) and Robert Scott Wilson (“American Fright Fest”) as John’s college(?) aged kids who add little substance to the narrative.
Without a better way of putting this, there’s much to demerit against “Devil’s Revenge.” The concept is sound: a disarrayed and browbeaten archeologist must locate an evil transmitting relic from destroying his family with a everlasting demonic curse. Sounds good, right? Combine that with Shatner blasting demons to smithereens with a multi-barrel grenade launcher, the potential for a solid and fun viewing experience would be a no-brainer. However, what’s sold is the made in China version of what’s being marketed. Hard to imagine Maurice Hurley’s, the man who helped re-pioneered space exploration and developed The Borg adversaries, script was so out of whack and had gone into various limp curvatures that I don’t expect all blame should point to him for the posthumous misstep as the direction is emphatically coarse and incoherent of too many ideas without any connective tissue much unlike boldly going where no man has gone before. In fact, many filmmakers have gone this route before by taking all sense of a rounded script and dissolving it the way Cohn does. The path Cohn ultimately takes is to splice loads of unnecessary and repetitive flash backs into the story to try and retain into viewers over and over again the events that conjured hell’s minions to surface. I’m sure we saw the same scenes at least five or six times from beginning to end, even during the opening credits. There’s also a looseness about how this curse attaches itself to John’s family from long ago that inexplicably goes without being conveyed and we find ourselves asking, why these people? What have they’ve been suffering through all these years? What makes them important? The curse seems rather recent rather than historic and for John’s family legacy to go uncharted just poses too many unanswered questions. What’s fundamentally right is Inan, the head demon, who represents the best parts of the “Devil’s Revenge’s” netherworld rock and roll presence with a large and ghastly humanoid with blank, fiery eyes and a protruding clasping mouth and the visual effects surrounding Inan are pretty good despite their some minuscule glossy bad aftertaste. An aftertastes that extends into Shatner using the grenade launcher with the goofiest of detonations in an unrealistic distance between him and his targets without so much of a single piece of shrapnel grazing his well postured gun-toting stance.
MVDVisual distributes “Devil’s Revenge,” a Cleopatra Entertainment production, onto a region free, special edition Blu-ray and soundtrack CD combo. The Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen, 2.78:1 aspect ratio, in a BD-25 with a 1080p transfer. “Devil’s Revenge” implores more than the natural lighting used through much of the 98 minute runtime and while natural lighting isn’t a flaw in any sense, Ryan Broomberg’s cinematography falls flat, uninspired that doesn’t represent well the presentiment eventualities past, present, or future. Technically, “Devil’s Revenge” isn’t soft around the details albeit minor banding in closer quarters of the cave. Practicality versus the computer imagery really do go head-to-head between Vincent Guastini’s (“Art of the Dead”) special effects and the visual effects team of Eric Chase (“The Black Room”) and Mike Rotella (“The Predator”). The detailed rubber body suits and the composited explosions akin to the military hellfire creatures were bombarded with in monsters movies from the 50’s are of the campy independent film culture and purgative of any expectations of the Devil actually making good on revenge. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio is not as lossy as the usual Cleopatra Entertainment Blu-ray releases and certainly regales with the theatrics of a William Shatner monologue (can’t you tell I love me some Shatner). Range and depth are concurrent appropriate with each other and dialogue is clean and clear. Surprisingly and rarely does a Cleopatra Entertainment releases goes without a soundtrack intertwined with the score that contracts their signed artists from parent company Cleopatra Records; instead, we receive a brooding industrial score composed by Jürgen Engler, co-founder of German punk band “Male” and “Die Krupps,” which can be gorged on as the film’s coveted silver-lining. Luckily and conventionally for a Cleopatra special edition release, an un-cursed 13-track CD of Jürgen Engler’s score accompanies the feature Blu-ray. That being the height of the special features, other bonus material includes a picture slideshow and theatrical trailer. “Devil’s Revenge” won’t shudder your bones to milky pigments of sawdusts and will likely strikeout with fans, as perhaps the Devil’s actual revenge for portraying him so ill-conceived. Still, I suggest checking out the Jürgen Engler’s gnawing and insidious industrial score, a gleaming highlight for sure.